Walking out of Paycor Stadium, the energy surrounding the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday afternoon was palpable. Returning to the scene of last season’s playoff loss to the rival Cincinnati Bengals, the Ravens put together a fantastic performance which featured highlight plays from multiple players.
Lamar Jackson and the offense
When Ravens fans envisioned what the Ravens’ offense could become under new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, they probably dreamt up a scenario similar to the one that unfolded on Sunday. Quarterback Lamar Jackson had a very sharp game as Monken schemed up quick passes early to get him in rhythm. Jackson was surgical in the short passing game and eventually took some bigger shots down the field like the 52-yard bomb to Zay Flowers in the third quarter.
The Ravens’ run game, spearheaded by Jackson, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill, racked up over 170 yards and effectively sealed the game on their final possession. Lastly, we must give the offensive line an extraordinary level of credit. Down multiple starters, backups Patrick Mekari and Sam Mustipher kept Jackson squeaky clean in the pocket and were the driving force behind the Ravens victory.
Defensive Coordinator Mike MacDonald
The sample size has seemingly become large enough to say this: defensive coordinator Mike MacDonald has Joe Burrow and the Bengals’ number. After three lackluster performances from one of the league’s best offenses last year, MacDonald and the Ravens’ defense continued the trend on Sunday, holding Burrow and company to 282 total yards.
Down multiple starters in the secondary, players like Geno Stone came up big, notching an interception early in the second half to stop a would-be Bengals’ scoring drive. As was the case last year, the Ravens didn’t allow any explosive plays to unfold, leading Burrow to take checkdown after checkdown.
4th quarter defense
In an ideal world, you would like to see the Ravens defense be a little stronger down the stretch. The team blew more fourth quarter leads than any team in the league last year and it looked as if it was going to happen again after Burrow’s second touchdown pass to Tee Higgins late in the game. While the unit played extremely well in the first half, holding Burrow to under 40 yards passing, the Bengals started to get into a groove down the stretch.
However, it also took Cincinnati over 39 plays to produce their 14 second half points. Although it would’ve been nice to seal the game sooner, Cincinnati had no easy avenues to the endzone and it took a lot of time and effort for them to produce points.
The Ravens’ special teams, which is usually among the best in the league, had an unusually tough day. In addition to the 81-yard punt return touchdown by Charlie Jones, Justin Tucker also missed a long field goal attempt in the first quarter. While missing a field goal might seem like a common occurrence for most teams, the extreme rarity of Tucker misses are enough to put this one in the ugly bucket.